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PIRAEUS, Greece – The Latest on the flow of refugees and other migrants into Europe (all times local):
The Vatican is confirming Pope Francis will meet with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos on April 16, a highly symbolic show of solidarity as the European Union begins deporting migrants back to Turkey.
The Vatican said Thursday that Francis had accepted an invitation to visit by the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and the Greek president. Bartholomew will be in Lesbos as well.
The visit comes as refugees are being deported back to Turkey under a controversial EU program.
Francis, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, has been outspoken about Europe's moral obligation to welcome refugees. A visit to a refugee camp by the leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches could embarrass EU leaders already under fire from human rights groups.
Authorities in Greece say thousands migrants and refugees camped out at the country's largest port near Athens have been given two weeks to move to army-built camps or be expelled by force.
The warning issued Thursday came as nearly a third of the 52,000 migrants stranded in Greece by European border closures are refusing to move to organized shelters and remain camped out at the port of Piraeus and at the northern border with Macedonia.
At Piraeus, government officials and translators spent hours trying to persuade migrants to move voluntarily to a new camp in northern Greece, showing them aerial photographs of the site and explaining what facilities are available.
More than 4,000 migrants remain at Piraeus — an important site for Greece's vital tourism industry.